The purpose of this study was to compare moment-to-moment appraisals and coping strategies of 4 non-elite and 2 elite male trap shooters during competitions and in particular during periods of competition perceived as critical to performance. Appraisals and coping patterns of trap shooters were captured via verbal reports of thinking provided between sets of shots during major competitions. Verbal reports were coded according to an appraisal and coping typology. Coded data as well as shooting performance data were subjected to a sequential analysis of probabilities of pairs of events. Fewer reports of negative appraisals (NEGAs) and more frequent reports of problem-focused coping (PFC) were observed among both elite athletes compared to non-elite athletes. After making a NEGA, non-elite shooters often progressed to the next target without attempting to cope, whereas elite shooters used both PFC and emotion-focused coping (EFC) before proceeding to the next target. After missing a target, the non-elite athletes used more EFC than expected. These results indicate that elite athletes are more likely to cope with NEGAs than non-elite athletes using a wider variety of coping strategies. Athletes might benefit from increased awareness of the potentially detrimental impact of NEGAs on performance and by integrating coping strategies within preparatory routines.